amBroadway | Loss of the Under the Radar Festival sparks outcry

Are we not drawn onward to a new erA 1
A scene from ‘Are we not drawn onward to new erA’ at Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of The Public’s 18th Annual Under the Radar Festival.
Photo by Mirjam Devriendt

The Public Theater’s splashy 2023-24 season will include, among other things, a new musical with songs by Alicia Keys and that is based on Keys’ teenage life (“Hell’s Kitchen”), a Public Works adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” a new drama by Suzan-Lori Parks (“Sally & Tom”), a new play with Josh Radnor (“The Ally”).

However, the Under the Radar Festival, the annual multi-week festival of international, experimental, and multidisciplinary theater held every January at the Public Theater, went unmentioned in the theater’s press release announcing the new season. The theater subsequently confirmed to Playbill.com that the festival will not return next year and has been placed on “extended hiatus.”

In response, numerous theater artists and writers have expressed disappointment and shock on social media. “Under the Radar was the best of us. Not good @PublicTheaterNY Not good, world,” wrote English director and writer Tim Crouch.

Artists that have been featured at the festival in recent years have included Manual Cinema, the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Penny Arcade, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, and Roger Guenveur Smith. This year marked the first festival to be presented at the Public Theater since the pandemic. A digital edition was presented in 2021, and the festival was canceled at the last minute in 2022 due to the spread of the Omnicron variant, which caused cancellations, flight disruptions, and visa processing delays.

The move has also been taken as a sign that experimental theater artists may not be able to depend on not-for-profit theaters for financial and artistic support in a post-pandemic environment. Not so long ago, there were multiple experimental festivals in January, which was otherwise a slow month for theatergoing. In a social media post, Joshua William Gelb (Theater in Quarantine) compared the non-profit theater movement to “a party that was being broken up…In rushed tones and text messages we all began to realize that the party was over.”

Other New York theater festivals have come and gone in recent years including the New York International Fringe Festival, New York Musical Theatre Festival, and Lincoln Center Festival.

Daly and Schreiber to lead ‘Doubt’ revival

Tyne Daly and Liev Schreiber will lead the first Broadway revival of John Patrick Shanley’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Doubt,” which will be produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre in winter 2024. Scott Ellis, who is currently serving as the company’s interim artistic director following the recent death of Todd Haimes, will direct. “Doubt” (which originally starred Cherry Jones and Brian F. O’Byrne) observes a Catholic School principal who harbors serious concerns about her community’s priest. The 2008 film version (directed by Shanley himself) featured Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.

City Center announces 2024 Encores! season

City Center’s 2024 Encores! season will include concert stagings of the 1959 fairy tale musical comedy “Once Upon a Mattress” (starring Sutton Foster as Princess Winnifred, with Amy Sherman-Palladino writing the concert adaptation), the 1992 Jelly Roll Morton bio musical “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and the lush 1997 musical drama “Titanic” (which is distinguishable from the blockbuster 1997 film of the same name). As its annual “gala presentation,” City Center will produce a new adaptation of the 1940 Roders & Hart musical “Pal Joey” starring Ephraim Sykes (“Ain’t Too Proud”), Jennifer Holliday (“Dreamgirls”), and Elizabeth Stanley (“Jagged Little Pill”).